English is an integral part of our education; we learn to read and write effectively, and we develop skills in analysis and discussion. The subject is usually divided into two areas of study: Literature and Language, and both are available to all year groups at YMS. The former introduces students to classic texts, such as those by Chaucer and Shakespeare, as well as more contemporary writers like Steinbeck, Orwell, Miller, and so on. We also cover different genres, from drama to poetry, and from horror to science fiction. It is always important to remember that English literature can be enjoyed, and placing it in its context is crucial; like playing a composer’s concerto or sonata, it is impossible to interpret artistic creations without truly understanding what was happening in the composer’s or writer’s life at the time. Consequently, we ensure that we explore the political, social and historical events of the time in which a text was written when reading literature. Playing music and reading English literature have a great deal in common in this respect.
English Language, on the other hand, concerns the mechanics of English. In other words, how language is formed (morphology and grammar), and how it is used (semantics and pragmatics). Many musicians find this aspect of English fascinating; they like to see patterns emerging, and become very engaged with how English is structured and used to convey meaning. Again, this has similarities with musical notation, where notes, represented on the page as nothing more than black dots, can be ‘read’ aloud to create the most wonderful sounds.
English is a core subject, which is studied by all students at YMS in the D, C and B groups, and is an option to students in the sixth form (the A group). Throughout Years 10 and 11 (B1 & B2) students prepare for two GCSEs in the subject – Language and Literature – which involves ‘controlled assessment’ papers as well as terminal exams at the end of Year 11. The GCSE examination board we use is OCR. In 2012 56% of grades at GCSE were A* or A.
The A Level in English Language and Literature is also a two-year course, and explores the subjects in considerable detail; the analytic skills acquired during this time are transferrable to many disciplines in later life. The A Level examination board we use is AQA.
D Group is taught by Janet Poppe.
C, B and A Groups are taught by Joseph Bennett.
Activities associated with English at YMS
Every year we try to include a number of theatre trips. In recent years we have seen good productions of Othello, Journey’s End, The Winslow Boy and The Importance of being Earnest, amongst others. We also enter competitions when time allows, such as the BBC’s ‘Shakespeare by Heart’ event in 2011, and short story and poetry contests, as well as encouraging students to enter their creative writing into the School’s own Brackenbury Awards. We also run debating evenings, which help students to develop their skills in confident public speaking and power of expression.